Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alaskan Picture Pages

I extended my time in Alaska to include a week of vacation. "The Phoenix" came up and joined me, and we spent a week cramming in as many activities as possible.

The first day we went on a bear-viewing tour. We chartered a small float plane and went to a nearby bay where we could safely view the bears from a boat.
Mama grizzly bear fishing for her two cubs:

I wouldn't want to be a salmon!

These two Spring cubs made all sorts of loud whiny, grunty sounds for more fish:

Smaller, adult male grizzly:

Black bears look small and cuddly by comparison:

I think this eagle was hoping for some leftover fish:

We spent a few days in Denali National Park, doing some hiking and white water rafting. We didn't have very much time for hiking, so we took the park shuttle as far as we could to the Savage River and walked around. Denali, by far, had the some of the best scenery. I had hoped to see caribou, moose, and dall sheep, but it didn't pan out. Mount McKinley is only visible a handful of days every month, so we didn't get to see it during our time there. Oh well, more incentive to return for a longer stay next time.

Fall looks entirely different on the tundra:

Me, looking carefree:


This is a ptarmigan, which I think must mean "tastes like chicken" in native tongue. One of our fellow tourists tried to convince us that it was a golden eagle. We just smiled and nodded.

After that, it was on to Seward Peninsula via the Alaskan Railroad (which has great views, but is a REALLY slow trip, so I was glad we took the motorcoach back!). We spent a couple of days on on Fox island at a fairly secluded hotel, where we dined on salmon, kayaked on the ocean, and took advantage of their personal chef.

The next day, we went on a wildlife-viewing day cruise. Highlights included spotting some whales and watching a glacier calve.

I think this sea lion was also on vacation:

Flirty otter:

Mama and baby whale:

It was difficult to go back to work, and I still have tons of photos to sort through, but I'm glad I went, and feel like I took pretty good advantage of the time that I had in Alaska. It's such a huge state, that there's no way to cover everything in one visit, and for some of the things that I wanted to see (Northern Lights), you really have to check it out at different times of the year. August was a great time to go though, as there was still plenty of daylight and tourist season was tapering down, so a lot of places that we went weren't as crowded.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Alaska, Part 2

More pictures from my recent Alaskan trip:

Pink salmon, about to die after spawning.
Silver salmon, hung out to dry in one of the villages.

I went fishing (for the first time EVER), while I was doing a four-day village stay to do annual check-ups and medication renewals. I didn't actually catch anything, but by the end of a couple hours, I was no longer casting into the weeds. The best part of it was that on the way out to the fishing spot, we saw a lynx swim across the river and there were a couple of bald eagles that flew by.

There was a seafood processing plant in town, where you could buy a pound of Alaskan Red King crab for pretty reasonable prices. It was even cheaper to buy the live ones, however there just wasn't a pot big enough for a full crab in the apartment and I was a little squeamish about chopping up crab guts. These suckers were spiky, but from now on, I will probably associate watching the Summer Olympics with sitting down with a pile of fresh steamed crab legs and butter.

Tundra geese:

I really wanted to get a good picture of a musk ox, but even with my larger lens, this guy turned and stared me down from about 200 yards, so I opted for a non-gored liver and a distance shot.

Ready-to-pick fresh blueberries.

As for the actual month of medicine, I delivered three babies (ok, one of them popped out before I could get my gloves on). It was actually a primary care/family practice rotation, so a lot of time was spent seeing people in the outpatient clinic while covering any emergencies. I did do several flight transports, including one harrowing one where the patient was in hypovolemic shock, and we had no blood products with us, and were down to our last 500 cc of fluid on the airplane. It was nerve-wracking to just watch someone's blood pressure fall, with nothing to do but hope to get them to the hospital (and operating room) before they arrested. Another of my patients had a heart attack, but he was transferred quickly and did well.

I worked a ton of hours for those four weeks, but it was interesting to see how patient management has to be adjusted to the resources that are available. I also learned to advocate aggressively for my patients, dealing with unknown specialists over the phone to get them what they needed. It was a good month, but I don't have any intentions of returning... at least not for work.